EAST CHICAGO | Federal dollars might help clean up sediments in the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal if the East Chicago Waterway Management District board's application for a grant is approved.
It submitted an application to receive Great Lakes Legacy Act funding through the Environmental Protection Agency to remove decades of contaminants such as ammonia, E-coli, cyanide, oil, lead and pesticides.
"It's basically an opportunity to use federal dollars to help clean up areas of concern ... high areas of concern that EPA has identified," said Fernando Trevino, executive director for the E.C. Waterway Management District.
Trevino said the proposal to the EPA is a three-phase project that involves a remedial investigation, feasibility study and remedial design for parts of the Grand Calumet River that have not yet been remediated and parts of the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not plan to dredge.
"It connects the dots on parts of the river and canal that are not presently slated for remediation," Trevino said.
He said dredging the Army Corps is currently doing in the canal is only in the federal navigation channel.
Trevino said the feasibility study would explore all remediation options that could range from doing nothing at all to a complete dredging of the specific areas, but that something in the middle would likely be selected.
Completing the three phases likely would take two years and the EPA would act as project leader.
The estimated cost of the project is $2 million, of which 65 percent would come from Great Lakes Legacy Act funds. The remaining 35 percent would come from the East Chicago Waterway Management District.
Trevino said the current plan is to fund the 35 percent mostly via user fees collected from the approximately 30 businesses and industries along the canal and river in East Chicago.
"By state statute, we're allowed to collect up to $500,000 per year, and that's a total, for all property owners," he said.
Some of the ultimate goals of the three-phase plan are a reduction in toxins released into Lake Michigan, less human and ecological risks, better conditions for fish and wildlife, enhanced water quality and more opportunities for economic development and recreational uses.